Last Night: Jenny Lewis, Beachwood Sparks, Pierre de Reeder at the Orpheum Theatre in Los Angeles, Oct. 30, 2008.
Better Than: Staying home and watching the season premiere of “30 Rock.” Which isn't a dis of “30 Rock,” because that show is fantastic, it's a testament to how great this show was. (Plus, real fans watched the seaprem on Hulu days ago.)
Download: “Pull Me In Tighter,” a non-album track from Rilo Kiley that sounds a lot like a precursor to Jenny Lewis solo work.
People like Jenny Lewis. Like, really like her. Maybe a little too much, actually.
Several times during her show Thursday night, perfectly lovely, serene moments where her strong yet sweet voice filled the over 80-year-old theater with a thoughtful calm on songs like opener “Rabbit Fur Coat” were nearly ruined by some jerk yelling inane comments like “Marry me Jenny!” and “female Bob Dylan!” (Because she was wearing a hat and playing an acoustic guitar, you see.) Stalker-esque passion was shown by “fans” blurting out words like “I still love you, Jenny, even though you totally dissed me for a picture one time,” which sounds like it came straight from that Eminem song “Stan.”
But between her work fronting Rilo Kiley, two excellent solo albums (2006's Rabbit Fur Coat and Acid Tongue, released last month), and, OK, the fact that she is pretty darn adorable, what's not to like?
In a set divided roughly equally between her two solo albums (along with a Rilo Kiley song and a cover of “Love Hurts”), Lewis and her band (depending on the song, she was joined on stage by between zero to six others), including boyfriend/frequent collaborator Johnathan Rice, delivered an hour-and-a-half of music bound to satisfy her clearly devoted fans. Not only were they able to match the quality of the recorded work, but they brought an intimacy and immediacy to it that is pretty much the reason people bother with going to concerts in the first place.
Clad in a hat, high-waisted blue bell bottoms and a black and white polka dotted shirt (really, she makes it work— and it appears to be her official concert wardrobe these days; she wore a similar outfit on “Late Night with Conan O'Brien” a few weeks ago), Lewis delivered exactly what you would want: really spectacular vocals throughout. Between sips from a bottle of Pacifico, she exchanged a few pleasantries with the crowd, mainly on the subject of it being good to be home (she's based in Van Nuys, and as is so often publicized, grew up a child actor). But the majority of her energy was devoted to performing; playing both guitar and piano (separately—she's not that talented) and giving numbers like torch song “Happy” newly charged emotion. Though her solo material is most obviously influenced by classic country females like Patsy Cline, it really draws from a variety of genres, which was well illustrated in the bluesy spirit of “Bad Man's World.” That song also gave Lewis a brief opportunity to ambiguously speak on the upcoming election, saying she'll be casting an absentee ballot soon and that “there's some bad guys out there. I'm just rooting for the good guys is all.”
Though Acid Tongue has only been out for about a month, Lewis has been performing album tracks “Carpetbaggers,” “Jack Killed Mom” and “See Fernando” since 2006, and this experience was evident. Though Elvis Costello sings the male parts of “Carpetbaggers” on the record, Rice has actually been doing so for a couple years now, as he did here (except now he has the unenviable task of being compared to one of the greatest singer-songwriters of all time). Another Acid Tongue song, the nine-minute “The Next Messiah,” seemed to reach its full, sprawling potential when performed live.
“Love Hurts” came before the encore break and featured just Lewis and Rice; the crowd seemingly irking Rice at this point, who rather bluntly said “This is one of those songs you don't have to clap along to.” “It's not their fault they don't have great rhythm,” joked Lewis. The crowd obliged and was blissfully silent—if only he had said something earlier. After the encore, fans was surprised by the choice of a Rilo Kiley song, “Under the Blacklight,” which Lewis dedicated to her “friend Blake” (RK guitarist Blake Sennett). By the time they got to rousing closer “See Fernando” at around 12:30 a.m., Lewis was ready for more audience participation, getting on her piano bench to encourage fans to stand up and, yes, clap.
Los Angeles band Beachwood Sparks played before Lewis, though only about a third of the crowd had taken their seats at that point, and—even more gauche!—some actually slept through their 45 minutes of dreamy country-meets-psychedelic. Rilo Kiley bassist Pierre de Reeder, embarking on a solo career of his own, opened things up, with a half hour of charmingly sincere folk rock (his album is called “The Way That It Was” for good reason), including the sweet yet not saccharine “Sophia's Song,” written for his daughter.
Personal Bias: Of all the annoying people in the crowd, I had to be sitting in front of the annoyingEST, a group of women who would sarcastically say “YOU'RE WELCOME!” when Beachwood Sparks would say “thank you” after a song and loudly searched for an errant SIM card after dropping a phone.
Random Detail: One person in the crowd that wasn't lame? Jon Hamm, a.k.a. Don Draper on AMC's overwhelmingly critically beloved “Mad Men.” Here's a stalkeriffic picture of him I took in the lobby.
By the Way: There are probably worse things you could do with your time than drive down to UCSD for her show there Saturday night.
Jenny Lewis set list:
“Rabbit Fur Coat”
“Jack Killed Mom”
“The Charging Sky”
“Rise Up with Fists!!!”
“You Are What You Love”
“Bad Man's World”
“The Big Guns”
“The Next Messiah”
“Sing a Song For Them”
“Under the Blacklight”